Friends of the AMD Athlon had to wait quite a long time: Until recently there used to be only AMD's 750/Irongate chipset for Slot-A Athlon platforms. We especially described the rather weak performance of the AGP and memory interface in our previous tests. The Super Bypass was obviously not the appropriate remedy for speeding up the now quite tired AMD750/Irongate. Finally, VIA is offering the KX133 chipset that comes with modern features like AGP 4x and an asynchronous memory clock up to 133MHz. The new candidate sets high expectations on paper, but the support of upcoming CPUs has recently been castrated by VIA. The KX133 will not support Athlon's successor code named Thunderbird anymore. VIA, who originally planned to offer this support, withdrew from it due to stability problems with Thunderbird prototypes. On the other hand, AMD will not supply large quantities of Slot-A Thunderbirds to the vendors. Thunderbirds, which incorporate L2 cache on-die instead of using external cache components, will primarily become available in Socket-A versions (462pins), which are driven by the new KZ133 (VT8363) chipset. The only way to power up the few remaining Slot-A Thunderbirds now is Grandpa Irongate - it's quite embarrassing for VIA that they cannot offer upgradability for their KX133 chipset.
Patience Required - Not for the Faint-Hearted!
To say it right at the beginning: Compared to previous motherboard tests, this one really stressed our patience. Of course, some of the test candidates are early revisions with BIOS versions partially still in beta stage, thus not completely up to the demands of stable day-to-day use. But on the other hand we especially had quite a hard time to run the extensive benchmark tests under Windows 2000 Professional. Finally we decided to use the workstation version of Windows NT 4.0 SP6a, and ran the benchmark test on this operating system instead, in addition to Windows 98 SE.
Windows 2000 seems to pose some kind of problem to both, VIA as well as NVIDIA. While VIA supplied only some half-baked support to the Win2k package, NVIDIA is unable to release a final Win2k driver for their recent chips, although Windows 2000 is now available for several months already.
Follow-up by reading the article '